Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV) Table Tennis Academy is breaking down barriers to sport for young people from low-income areas and people from ethnically diverse communities.
Table tennis started at ASV in 2011, initially as a pilot for two night a week, but it quickly blossomed into the thriving academy that runs today.
As well as the academy, which currently has players ranging from age 8-17, there are a number of offshoot table tennis activities running every week which caters to all ages and abilities. Older participants have sessions specifically for them, with people in their 70s and 80s taking part.
The academy is run by Head Coach Max Singer who has been coaching the sport since he stopped playing in 1988. A key part of his work is regular visits to schools local to ASV, primarily in low-income areas, to deliver free taster sessions and encourage young people along.
Parents are also encouraged to come along and help if they are interested, several parents have done so and have since undertaken coaching qualifications. This has led to the creation of an inclusive table tennis community with coaches and participants from countries such as Germany, Nigeria, India, Russia and Poland.
Max Singer said: “Being open and inclusive has without question enhanced the experience for all players and coaches and has created a culture that supports and encourages all those involved to reach the highest level they aspire to within the sport.
“When I visit schools the aim is to introduce them to the sport, see if they enjoy it and maybe spot some with a natural talent for it. They are offered the chance to come along, the first two sessions they go to are free. We try to help them as much as we can in terms of cost.
“We’ve had a lot of kids come from the schools into the academy. Some progress to a good level, others don’t, but if they’re enjoying the sport that’s fine by me.
“We have a lot of volunteers who come to help who are also good players, that’s a huge help. It means we can give each player enough attention in terms of one-on-one coaching to help them improve.”
As well as providing the opportunity for young people to try the sport, there is a clear pathway to help players progress up the levels which has proved to be very successful.
Max added: “We have sessions for players that might not be of the level to go into the academy. That gives us time to work with them to assess them and gives them an opportunity to play. If they progress to a certain level and I think they’re ready they’ll be offered the chance to go into the academy.
“We have produced a number of players to represent Scotland at various levels. At school level, primary level and junior level. I think it’s around 25 players who have represented Scotland at some level.”
Kishi, a player at the academy, added: “There’s an encouraging atmosphere, everyone is really nice. I’ve made a lot of friends here over the years.”
The Aberdeen Sports Village, a partnership between Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen and sportscotland, opened in 2009. The £28 million complex raised the bar for sport provision in the North East with first-class standard facilities for a range of sports all under one roof. Today it caters for a range of sports such as athletics, badminton, diving, football, hockey, netball, rugby, squash, swimming and triathlon as well as providing a home for performance athletes to train.
The Table Tennis Academy was helped with support from sportscotland’s Direct Club Investment (DCI) a National Lottery funded club development fund. This allowed a staff member to be added specifically to support the Table Tennis Academy – a post which has continued through employment in the Aberdeen Sports Village. A further post was added through a second tranche of investment which aims to increase the development of the sport across the region.
Richard Yule, Chief Operating Officer, Table Tennis Scotland said: “It’s great to see the work that Max and everyone at Aberdeen Sports Village Table Tennis Academy are doing to introduce young people to the sport and help them progress as players and people.
“Table Tennis Scotland is intent on making table tennis an inclusive sport for all that has a lasting impact on local communities and Aberdeen Sports Village Table Tennis Academy is a brilliant example of that.”
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